Saturday, April 10, 2010

Window on Eurasia: New Ukrainian MVD Chief’s Anti-Tatar Rhetoric Raises Questions about Yanukovich’s Plans for Crimea

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 10 –The anti-Crimean Tatar statements and actions of the new Ukrainian interior minister, who had served as MVD chief in Crimea prior to his elevation, raise serious questions about the policies Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich intends to pursue on the peninsula.
Mogilev gained notoriety among the Crimean Tatars and others concerned with human rights when he dispatched militia units in APCs to attack Crimean Tatar businessmen from Ai Petri in November 2007, an attack so violent that it undermined any hope that he was prepared to enforce the law equally for all the ethnic communities there.
Not surprisingly, Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Cemilev met with Yanukovich and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov before Mogilev’s appointment was announced to try to persuade them not to take that step, but the support the Crimean Tatars gave to Yanukovich’s opponent Yulia Timoshenko limited their influence and may have even inspired Yanukovich to go ahead.
Crimean Tatar leaders and activists are certain that Mogilev’s appointment will have a negative impact on ethnic relations in Crimea, reversing much of the progress that community made during the last decade and possibly generating the kind of radicalism from despair that Kyiv might use to justify the kind of policies Mogilev appears to favor.
But one need not accept their testimony alone. Mogilev has laid out his position in a variety of public statements in recent years in such detail that all those in Ukraine and more generally who are concerned about human rights and the stable development of Crimea, Ukraine and the entire former Soviet space.
Perhaps Mogilev’s clearest statement came in an article he wrote for “Krymskaya Pravda” in January 2008. Entitled “In Crimea, Conflict is Developing According to the Kosovo Scenario,” the article blame the Crimean Tatars and their international supporters for all the problems there (
The MVD official says that “during the period of the peaceful co-existence on the well-favored land of Crimea, more than 100 nations and nationalities formed a special community of people who proudly called themselves Crimeans,” a regional identity that he was pushed national identities into second place.
But now, and Mogilev was writing at the start of 2008, the situation is changing and conflicts are emerging, a development that he says is being “provoked artificially by concrete forces and concrete money.” And he suggests that the Crimean Tatars and their foreign backers are pursuing scenarios “long ago worked out in Kosovo.”
The authors of this strategy, Mogilev suggests, “cover themselves with expressions of concern about peace and stability and the defense of the supposedly lawful interests of the supposedly indigenous population” and then “are prepared at any move to provide ‘assistance’ in any corner of the earth with air strikes and ‘peacemaking.’”
In short, the man who is now the head of Ukraine’s interior ministry says, “everything is done [both by the outside sponsors of this policy and their assistants on the ground] to make the situation irreversible and a return to peaceful existence impossible” as a means of achieving their ends.
In Crimea, Mogilev writes, this policy has split “not only the Christian and Muslim worlds but is destroying the Slavic one as well. Our Slavic brotherhood is for the West like a bone in the throat,” whose and its leaders respect not the many things which unite Crimeans but rather follow “the law of the jungle.”
But Mogilev continues, “because Crimean Tatars are not a flock of sheep,” those pushing for a Kosovo scenario in Crimea seek to mobilize them around several key myths: “about the indigenous people and national state, about the exclusive and priority rights [of that people], and about the great goal which justifies any means.”
The MVD chief dismisses all of these ideas, but he says that “among the Crimean Tatars,” some of them are widely accepted, especially among “the more radical” groups who now are being lead to “consciously ignore the laws of the state of Ukraine since they were written for unbelievers.”
He argues that what he calls “the myth” of the special suffering of the Crimean Tatars must be unmasked and dispelled. During the famine of the early 1930s, the deaths of members of that community were “a drop in the sea,” Mogilev suggests. Even during their deportation -- which Mogilev says they deserved for collaboration -- only 191 Crimean Tatars died.
“Of course,” the MVD official says, “the first years of deportation took place in difficult circumstances and mortality significantly exceeded the births.” But, he continues, in recent years, the Crimean Tatars and their Western backers have dramatically overstated the human losses of the deportation to justify the special treatment of the Crimean Tatars on their return.
When the Crimean Tatars began to return from Central Asia, “only Ukraine despite all its problems” assumed responsibility for helping them, Mogilev says, suggesting that the Crimean Tatars should be grateful to Kyiv rather than angry that they have not received even more disproportionate assistance.
The vast majority of Crimean Tatars understand this and are interested only in what Mogilev says would be “a just division of land, property, and monetary support.” But some radicals want to go further and seize property on the basis of claims that it was taken from them 65 years ago. They must be countered by the forces of order, Mogilev says.
If Mogilev’s attitudes become the basis of Kyiv’s policy in Crimea under Yanukovich, then the MVD official’s predictions of a Ukrainian Kosovo could prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consequently, all people of good will need assurances that Interior Minister Mogilev will not be allowed to act on the basis of the views he expressed in this article.

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